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FBI Director & IG Testify On Failures In Nassar Investigation. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired September 15, 2021 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOROWITZ, DOJ INSPECTOR GENERAL: The Indianapolis supervisory special agent drafting a summary of his telephonic interview of Ms. Maroney from 2015, that summary included statements as you heard from Ms. Maroney that didn't accurately reflect what she had told them and could have actually jeopardized the criminal investigations by providing -- by including false information that could have bolstered Nassar's defense. Further, we concluded that that agent made false testimony statements to the OIG in two interviews that we conducted.
We also learn during our investigation that in the fall of 2015, the FBI Indianapolis special agent in charge Jay Abbott, met with USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny at a bar and discuss the potential job opportunity with the U.S. Olympic Committee. Thereafter, Abbott engaged with Penny about both his interest in the U.S. Olympic Committee job and the Nassar investigation while at the same time participating in Nassar investigation discussions at the FBI. Abbott applied for the U.S. Olympic Committee position in 2017 but wasn't selected.
We determine that Abbott's actions violated the FBI's clear conflicts of interest policy. We also found that Abbott made false statements to the OIG and my agents into interviews that we conducted.
I want to conclude my testimony where I started by recognizing the courage and bravery of the extraordinary gymnasts that we heard from today and that we've heard from -- and that came before law enforcement in other settings. Their persistence and strength are an example to all of us who work in the area of accountability and who want to promote accountability.
Although the sexual abuses by Nassar and the appallingly inadequate response by the FBI agents cannot be undone, these athletes commitment to justice and their pursuit of accountability for all involved in this deeply tragic series of events will improve our institutions ultimately and will help ensure federal law enforcement responds in appropriate and timely way to reports of sexual abuse in the future.
Our report recommends several important necessary forms as Director Wray indicated, the FBI has begun taking them. And we will continue to conduct our independent oversight work to ensure that they're effectively implemented. Thank you. And I'd be pleased to answer any questions the Committee may have. SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Thank you very much Inspector General Horowitz and thank you for your excellent work as usual in this report. Director Wray, I'm trying -- it had to touch you personally as not only in your official capacity but even just as a parent to listen to these young women tell the stories of what they had been through.
And what strikes me here is there doesn't seem to have ever been a sense of urgency or immediacy in that Indianapolis field office, the July reporting leading to the September attempt -- vain attempt to change venue on the case to Lansing which didn't happen, and then the later report in Los Angeles and then they set on it.
What's missing? What am I missing here? This is like a child kidnapping case this man is on the loose molesting children. And it appears that it's being lost in the paperwork of the agency.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, needless to say, I share your reactions, I share your bewilderment, I share your outrage, you know, on a personal note not just as a parent or a brother or a husband but as somebody whose first introduction to law enforcement was working as an intern in a D.A.'s office in a unit specifically focused on these kinds of crimes. It was part of what motivated me to pursue a career in law enforcement in the first place. And I don't have a good explanation for you. It is utterly jarring to me. It is totally inconsistent with what we train our people on, totally inconsistent with what I see from the hundreds of agents who work these cases every day. And that's why that individual has been fired.
DURBIN: Understood. But you also heard Ms. Maroney talk about it, I can't imagine this. Three hours, she's sitting on her bedroom floor going through an interview which you can tell was by person whoever it was totally insensitive to this young woman's tragic experience. What is the FBI learned from that? I mean, in terms of cases of this sensitivity to at least have interviewers that can sense their certain words you better be careful with.
WRAY: Well, thank you for that question. It illustrates something that's particularly important that we've put in place. So we have something called CAFIs which are Child Adolescent Forensic Interviews. These are interviewers who are specially trained in the unique sensitivities of what it takes to interview people, victims, survivors of these kinds of crimes.
And one of the reforms that we've put in place is to make crystal clear in policy that interviews of individuals like Ms. Raisman should be conducted with those kinds of interviewers and they should not be conducted telephonically, they should be conducted in person wherever possible.
That was true before. We've made it more clear now. And we're putting training in place, mandatory training, which has already been completed to ensure that that occurs. So that's partial answer to your question on that one. DURBIN: General Horowitz, did any of the FBI employees or agents involved in this case deliberately misrepresent any facts to you and your investigation?
HOROWITZ: They did. We found both that the person who wrote the report that Ms. Maroney testified about falsely testified to us about what he did in connection with that report, as well as other matters that we asked him about and special agent-in-charge Abbott made false statements to us about the steps he took in 2015 when these allegations came in, but also about his effort -- job seeking efforts with U.S. Olympic Committee.
DURBIN: Do these deliberate misrepresentations reached the level of criminal violation?
HOROWITZ: Well, we found that they violated criminal law sufficiently that what we do at that point is make the referral to prosecutors to assess them because that's who needs to make the decision whether or not there will be charges brought.
DURBIN: Director Wray, what happened next?
WRAY: Well, as Inspector General Horowitz said, those were referred to the prosecutors over at the Justice Department and they're the ones that made the decision. As I understand it from Inspector General Horowitz's report, the prosecutors at the Justice Department on two separate occasions, both in 2020 and then again in 2021 declined to prosecute. But I really would defer to the Justice Department for those --
DURBIN: Are you personally aware or professionally aware of any facts or circumstances that would lead to that decision?
WRAY: I have not.
DURBIN: Well, is outrageous. And I am sorry because I have a great faith in this Attorney General in his Department of Justice. But when we asked them to bring someone in to explain this today, they refused and said they wouldn't attend. And I understand that it's a procedure in the Department not to go into the basis for deciding not to pursue prosecution. But this is on its face, obvious, that these agents not only were derelict in their duty when it came to these young women, but also did their best to cover up what had happened. And that is inexcusable from where I'm standing.
So let me ask you this finally Director Wray. I'm going to accept your profession of real caring, and I believe it is real caring about what happened in this circumstance today. What can you tell me if it happened tomorrow would be different?
WRAY: So there's a whole bunch of things we've done differently. First, we've accepted every single one of Inspector General Horowitz's recommendation, and then some, we've already begun implementing all of those.
We are strengthening policies, we're strengthening procedures, we're strengthening training, we're strengthening our systems, all building and double checks, triple checks, safeguards, oversight, different ways of making sure that we cannot have as occurred here in certain instances, a single point of failure. That's one of the lessons here that just totally unacceptable.
And so part of what's built in is a bunch of, as I said double and triple, even quadruple checks to make sure that that doesn't happen both in terms of how the initial reports are handled the appropriate urgency there but also in terms of communication.
One of the important recommendations from Inspector General Horowitz's reporting to state and local law enforcement, as well as communications between field offices, transfers between field offices. And I can go into more detail about any of those, but those are part of it.
And then the last thing I would say is that there are some things that occurred here that are just so basic and so fundamental and so foreclosed by our policies. As Inspector General Horowitz said we have pretty clear policies on a lot of these things. And so I have tried to make clear in very stern language to not just the field offices involved here, but to the executive management of every single field office and the entire leadership team of the FBI that on no planet is what happened in this case acceptable.
DURBIN: One last quick question. It seems that a lot of the decisions were being pinned on whether or not there was alleged violation of the sex tourism statute. Why is that such an exclusive remedy that if you're not on all force with that, in fact, the FBI agent felt that they were constrained to do anything?
WRAY: Well, I'm not steeped in the particulars of the sex tourism statute in the way that I used to be. But what I would say is that one of the things that we've tried, both the Deputy Director and I to make clear to people is that we don't want people getting wrapped around the axle about federal jurisdiction issues at the front end. Part of what needs to happen while they're figuring that out in consultation with the prosecutors, which is what should happen, they need to make sure that they're reporting to state and local law enforcement on a parallel track. So that's one of the key takeaways that comes out of Inspector General Horowitz's report.
DURBIN: Thank you, Senator Grassley.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Yes, please give me a minute before the clock starts to ask unanimous consent to include in the record letters that I have sent over the last few years that showed the non- responsiveness of the FBI to our inquiries on this subject.
DURBIN: Without objection.
GRASSLEY: And then second one would be a little bit unrelated to this but it deals with the unresponsiveness of Director Wray in regard to so I hope the Committee will listen to this as well. I've asked Director Wray several times to meet with me relating to a very troubling briefing that I received August 2020 from the FBI and which was later weaponized against mine and Senator Johnson's oversight.
Director Wray and his staff have ignored my request to meet, me making the pattern here at the Nassar case non-responsiveness. So without objection, I'd like to introduce into the record of the hearing today an e-mail thread illustrating the FBI's non-responsiveness to my request. This e-mail shows the great length that I went to, to getting a meeting with Director Wray.
DURBIN: Without objection.
GRASSLEY: OK. Now, my question to Director Wray, the Inspector General's report shows that why -- Jay Abbott, a senior official in the Indianapolis field office at FBI was allowed to retire in 2018 and evade prosecution even though this report describes significant misconduct by him and an agent under his supervision.
I've asked that the Attorney General reconsider the decision not to file charges against some of the individuals involved in the case. And I'd like you to provide this Committee with a list of all disciplinary actions that took place with respect to FBI personnel who were the subject of this investigation. I believe that you owe that at the very least to the victims of today's hearing.
WRAY: Well, we can provide the Committee with whatever information we can. Certainly, as I've already testified here today, the special agent, the supervisory special agent who featured so prominently in Inspector General Horowitz's report, I can confirm has been terminated. As to the former special agent-in-charge, he retired before this review commenced, before we learned the extent of his misconduct, much to my frustration.
And as to the decision whether or not to prosecute either individual, I would respectfully refer over to the Justice Department which I think is where Senator Grassley, you said your letter was appropriately directed.
GRASSLEY: I'd like you to cooperate in ensuring that the prosecution of those individuals who failed these victims and give us your commitment that you would go to the Justice Department again to try to get that done.
WRAY: Well, I'm happy to do whatever would be appropriate in this particular case. The criminal investigation that was conducted, the case agents, as it were, were from Inspector General Horowitz's office, which I think is as appropriate. So that's really a discussion between his office and the Justice Department. But if I can be a constructive part of that, given how strongly I feel, as I hope the Committee can tell, I'm happy to do whatever I can that would be appropriate.
[12:45:01] GRASSLEY: Next question, why didn't the children's unit at headquarters play a greater supervisory or coordination role here? For example, by ensuring that the correct office at FBI handled matter, and why didn't it follow up to ensure that the Indianapolis office had referred the matter to an FBI office that had jurisdiction over these allegations?
WRAY: Well, I want to be careful not to try to paraphrase too much Inspector General Horowitz's report since he's really the master of the facts here. But as I understand it, among the things that happened here where that the Indianapolis folks most responsible concealed information from certain people at headquarters at different stages, that's part of the problem.
We have implemented changes now that go to the point that you're getting at which is the transfers between field offices. We've built in a number of additional checks. And one of those three or four additional checks that we've built in now gives headquarters program management visibility so that -- which there to monitor so that they can ensure as a second, third, fourth check, if you will, to make sure that the work is being followed up on and that the transfer is appropriately handled.
GRASSLEY: Did anyone at the FBI headquarters consult with Indianapolis and Los Angeles offices about notifying state and local authorities about the allegations against Nassar?
WRAY: I don't know the answer to that but Inspector General Horowitz did the investigation so I'll let him speak to the facts.
HOROWITZ: Senator, I'm not aware of discussions about referring it to state and local authorities.
GRASSLEY: Director Wray, how far the knowledge of Nassar investigation extend within FBI headquarters in 2015?
WRAY: My understanding of the most senior individual involved based on looking at the thorough and independent investigation that Inspector General Horowitz conducted was that the most senior individual with sort of knowledge and responsibility was the special agent-in-charge in Indianapolis, Mr. Abbott. But again, I would defer to Inspector General Horowitz on that.
GRASSLEY: Was the Director aware of the Nassar matter at any time in or before calendar year, 2016?
WRAY: I don't know the answer to that, sir. But maybe Inspector General Horowitz does.
GRASSLEY: Prior to 2017, did the FBI headquarters follow up with its field offices about the status of the Nassar investigation and whether further federal investigation was needed?
HOROWITZ: Senator there was in 2016 some dialogue about that. But as we describe in our report, the FBI policies don't require the level of detail and reporting to the headquarters unit that would, for example, put the responsibility directly on them to have notified state local authorities.
DURBIN: Senator Leahy?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm glad Mr. Horowitz and Director Wray are here. But the conclusions we have here are I suppose a nice way you could say is they're troubling, they're damning, they're horrible. And I think of the young woman who testify here today, what they went through. And I don't see where they get much solace out of listening to this and what the American people feel.
Senator Grassley just mentioned, Mr. Horowitz, about Jay Abbott, named the I.G. report, he retired. Was that a forced retirement?
HOROWITZ: It was not.
LEAHY: Did he ever face any possibility of prosecution?
HOROWITZ: We referred our findings to the Department's prosecutors for consideration about the false statements that he made to us in our interviews.
LEAHY: By consideration, do you make a recommendation when you do that?
HOROWITZ: We don't make a formal recommendation. As you know, as a former prosecutor and I was former prosecutor, there are informal discussions. But ultimately, the responsibility for the decision is with the prosecutors and I will say having written a report a couple years ago about the prior FBI Director statements at a public press conference about what he would do as a -- if he were the prosecutor, you know, I would -- I'm not about to jump in and take someone else's responsibility.
LEAHY: No. I understand that. And when I was a prosecutor in law enforcement center investigations, I had to make the final decision, of course. But I think there's a number of people get charged for lying to FBI agents. I mean, we've seen such charges of fraud in various areas, areas of organized crime on. I'm just -- it is troubling to me to see that an FBI agent who lied, broke the law, know he's breaking the law, and nothing happens.
I understand the procedures but it bothers me greatly. Failures by the FBI field office in Indianapolis, delayed the starting investigation of Larry Nassar's widespread sexual assaults of over 100 victims. And everybody, I don't care where they are and their political spectrum they have, I had to be torn apart listening to the testimony of these victims this morning. I know I was.
And the -- we talked about Ms. Raisman's testimony. She didn't have a parent or lawyer present when she was being questioned. Director Wray is that -- you mentioned change in procedures, I realize this happened before you are a Director and I'm asking the changes in procedure. Today, would she have a parent or lawyer present with her? WRAY: Well, that would be a discussion between the agents and her and her parents. One of the things that, as I said that we've changed is the -- is to step up the emphasis on these, what we call CAFIs, C-A-F- I, these Child Adolescent Forensic Interviewers and I cannot stress enough how important it is to view these kinds of interviews as a very unique kind of interview. There's all sorts of sensitivities and we heard a lot about it in a very powerful way from the women who testified here this morning.
Very -- and the point you made about parents, et cetera, that's part of one of those many sensitivities. And so that's why it's so important to have interviews done by or at least heavily involving these Child Adolescent Forensic Interviewers. That's why we have that program. That's why the policy has been strengthened to increase the use of them and to require them. That's why we've discouraged as much as possible telephonic interviews at all in these kinds of cases.
And one of the other I think, helpful points that came out of Inspector General Horowitz's report is the clarification that that should also take into account women who are adults at the time of the interview, but who were victimized when they were minors, and because that is its own kind of unique sensitivity. So we're trying very hard to push out that program to avoid the kind of really heartbreaking insensitivity that you just alluded to.
LEAHY: Well, the supervisory special agent in Indianapolis, Michael Langeman, is now being fired as have been recommendations. What took so long to fire him, I might ask?
WRAY: Well, we waited for the report. You know, one of the things that I want to make sure is that we don't have a situation where two wrongs make a right. And so we waited until we had the Inspector General's independent report. We followed our disciplinary process, and he's been fired.
LEAHY: Did he contest the firing?
WRAY: I probably can't get into that discussion here. I want to be sensitive about privacy at concerns and so forth.
LEAHY: Mr. Horowitz if you can say, is there been a recommendation that he'd be prosecuted?
HOROWITZ: Again, what would -- what happened in these discussions generally or interactions with the prosecutors, we don't make a generally speaking, we don't make a formal recommendation to the prosecutors. And I think you'd have to have the Department's officials speak to that issue.
LEAHY: OK. I'll just close with this. I mean, I look at a whole lot of people should be prosecuted here besides Nassar obviously should be prosecuted. But I'm thinking some of the people within the athletic field that were aware of this, who turn a blind eye to it, who did nothing to it and allowed all these veterans be there. I'm not talking about people in government but even people outside. A whole lot of people should be in prison. I'm glad he's in prison. But I can tell you, frankly, as a parent, as a grandparent is a hell of a lot more I'd like to see in prison. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
DURBIN: Thank you very much. Senator Feinstein.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, when this report was released, that CIG report on July 14th, the FBI publicly promised quote, to take all necessary steps to ensure that the failure of the employees outlined in the report do not happen again. That's a direct quote and an important promise. Can you please describe the specific steps, specific steps the FBI has taken in the past two months to ensure that these failures do not happen again?
WRAY: Thank you, Senator Feinstein for the question. So, first, as has already been mentioned, the disciplinary process has already been completed on the supervisory special agent and he's been fired.
Second, we have strengthened policies, procedures, systems, and training to address and incorporate all -- underlying all of Inspector General Horowitz's recommendations, many of them are already complete now. So that includes, for example, on the issue of reporting to state local law enforcement which by the way, should have happened here anyways. But to ensure that it happens going forward, we now require that the agent handling one of these cases has to document that he's reported it. So there's an audit trail, and he's accountable that way that he has to confirm it to his supervisor.
And we've had additional mandatory training for everyone involved. We've had two kinds of training already implemented, one for every single employee in the FBI. And I've taken that training myself, but also training specifically targeted at the employees who handle these kinds of cases and their supervisors. So that's just on that one piece. But we have similar changes to the transfers in field offices and so forth.
FEINSTEIN: Mr. Chairman --
FEINSTEIN: I don't want to go into more specifics. I heard his commitment. I would like to see it in writing sent to this Committee in the form of a letter following this hearing, so that we have written evidence that the FBI is going to do certain things.
DURBIN: I can certainly join you in preparing a letter to the FBI, which they can respond to and with specifics in the Director signature, correct?
WRAY: Yes, sir.
FEINSTEIN: I very much would appreciate that, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
Mr. Horowitz, I am concerned that the FBI's failures in this case, may be a symptom, may be a symptom of a broader failure to treat cases of child sexual abuse with the seriousness and sensitivity that they deserve. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls, and one in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse during their childhood our law enforcement agencies that really should ensure our children are protected.
Have you seen other instances in which the FBI's failure to properly investigate a case led to ongoing some sexual misconduct or harm to children that could have been prevented?
HOROWITZ: Senator, thank you for that. I agree with you about the significance importance of this. We didn't do a broader look at this. But I will say speaking to your point, what concern me particularly here, even though we didn't do a broad look in other cases, was we actually had two offices who dealt with this matter, the Indianapolis office and the L.A. office. The Indianapolis office had all of the basic fundamental failures that you've heard about, and we've talked about, but the -- and didn't tell state local law enforcement.
The L.A. field office actually did open a case an investigation, actually did interview witnesses, did you follow up with some of the gymnasts and yet they also failed to report to state and local authorities. So you had an office that actually took this seriously, but didn't do what was also I think of fair to say a fundamental step purely since they also had concerns about whether it was federal law enforce, federal jurisdiction here.